Senate Historical Office Washington, DC

Save this PDF as:

Size: px
Start display at page:

Download "Senate Historical Office Washington, DC"


1 ROBERT C. BYRD United States Senator from West Virginia, Oral History Interviews December 13 - Senate Historical Office Washington, DC

2 About the Interviewer: Dr. Richard A. Baker served as Senate Historian from 1975, when the office was established, to his retirement in He received his PhD in history from the University of Maryland College Park. He is the author of numerous books, the most recent of which, The American Senate: An Insider s History (with Neil MacNeil) was published in April 2013.

3 ROBERT C. BYRD Interview 11 Thursday, December 13, 1989 BAKER To begin, and to set it up a little bit, it strikes me that in the thirty-one years that you have been in the Senate that the Senate has undergone more changes than any other comparable time in its history. More profound changes. And yet, one can al so make the argument that the Senate is still, in essence, what it was in the eyes of the Framers of the Constitution. Among the 1,792 people who served in the Senate, you're 19th in terms of overall seniority, according to our lists as of right now. And you certainly never wont in your knowledge of the institutions inner dynamics as far as any fair observer would have knowledge. -2-

4 You're a particularly good person to focus on on how it is a person comes to learn the operations of a United States senator and becomes effective within the institution. And I thought a good way to begin would be to start with your election to the House of Representatives in the 83rd Congress. Arriving in 1953, Joseph Martin was Speaker of the House; and Sam Rayburn was the Minority Leader. Party control had just switched to the Republicans. I'm wondering if you could give me a sense of what it was like to be a brand, new member of the House of Representatives in January, a junior member of a minority party. BYRD: Well I felt a great thrill at becoming a member of the House of Representatives. When I was in high school, it never dawned on me that I would be interested in politics; and so it was a new world of thought, the idea of becoming a member of the Congress of the United States. And so, although I had already served in the West Virginia House of Delegates and West Virginia Senate, and had been exposed to legislative bodies at the state level, the exposure was not deep because our sessions in those days were only about two months out of every two years. But it was still an introduction to the legislative branch at a different level. Becoming a member of the Congress was to me an honor that, of -3-

5 course, lid never really given much aforethought to and even less the thought that I would even aspire to be a member of Congress. It was a much larger forum than the two legislative branches at the state level. While I was in the House I served on the House Administration Committee, which was a housekeeping committee. I believe that was my assignment in my first two-year term. And then I was assigned, I believe, in the second term to the Foreign Affairs Committee. As a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee I traveled a bit overseas. As a matter of fact, the first time lid ever gone overseas was as a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee. And on that first trip we traveled in an old constellation, a fourmotored plane that was rather slow in comparison with todayls flying machines. We traveled around the world; and we were gone 78 days, I believe. I traveled as a member of the Subcommittee on the Far East. Congressman Clem Zablocki was chairman. And on the subcommittee trip, in addition to Mr. Zablocki and myself, were Marguerite Stitt Church, Ross Adair, John Jarman, Mr. Wigglesworth, and Dr. Judd. Thi s wa s qu He an educa t i on for me. Qu ite an exper i ence. Traveling overseas and going around the world. BAKER: Was this your first time out of the country? -4-

6 BYRD: It was my first time out of the country. I didn't, as I recall, make a lot of acquaintances in the House. My interests in the House were mainly those parochial interests that impacted on my congressional district. I represented the old Sixth Congressional District in West Virginia. And coal and coal mining were the backbone of the economy in my congressional district. So I was very interested in legislation that impacted on coal, and the miners, and their families. I was interested in coal research at that time, and I recall that members of my delegation were like myself in that respect. We were opposed to the imports of residual oil which cut into the coal market. And I busied myself with legislation that created the Office of Coal Research. And the legislation I introduced, I think, had some success in that regard. That legislation, of course, was cosponsored by others from West Virginia. In those days there were probably about 135,000 coal miners in West Virginia when I first went to the House of Representatives in January, So many people earned their livelihoods working in the coal mines. BAKER: Your committee assignment was the Foreign Affairs Committee. Were you able to use that committee as a forum to deal with the whole problem of imported oil, residual oil, and to -5-

7 advance your interest in coal research? BYRD: No my committee assignments didn't fit into my economic and political needs in West Virginia, I recall. BAKER: How did you overcome that problem? BYRD: I worked my district very hard. I went back to my congressional district very often. It was said by some of my detractors that I woul d be a one- term congressman. So I worked hard to put that notion to rest. And I gave my constituents good service. Prompt service. Prompt attention to their problems. And I, therefore, became pretty strongly entrenched in that congressional district. BAKER: Thinking of the West Virginia delegation at that time, I was curious about the nature of your relationships with the two United States senators, Harley Kilgore and Matthew Neely, who were the two senators in the 83rd Congress. How did you work with them? -6-

8 BYRD: I did not have a close relationship with either of our United States senators at that time. However, my acquaintance with Senator Kilgore was closer and more warm than was my relationship with Senator Neely. Senator Kilgore was from Beckley, the county seat of my home county of Raleigh. That naturally positioned me more in his sphere of acquaintance than was the case with Senator Neely. Senator Neely was from the northern part of the state, and in those days we thought in West Virginia in terms of one senator from the North and one from the South. Senator Kilgore, then, and I, one might say, were practically from the same hometown. It also seemed to me that I had an easier relationship with Senator Kilgore. When I came to Washington, he advised me to enter law school. I did not at that time possess a degree, a master l s of arts or bachelor of arts degree; and I had acquired about 70 hours of college work prior to coming to Washington and intended to finish my work toward a bachelor of arts degree before going on to study law. I had, for quite some time, acquired a desire to get a law degree--not that I expected to practice law; but I simply wanted to get the degree. I wanted the kind of reading and class experience and learning that would go with a degree. Senator Kilgore advised me to enroll in law school upon my -7-

9 coming to Washington. He sa i d, Forget the other. Go down and enroll in law school. So I did that. I enrolled at George Washington University and built up a number of hours. I believe 22 or 24 hours. And then switched to the American University Law School, the American College of Law. I found after lid enrolled at George Washington University that I would not be able to acquire a law degree because I didn't have the prerequisite master of arts or bachelor of arts degree. So the Dean of George Washington University advised me to go down and see Dean Myers at the American College of Law. I found upon talking with Dean Myers the requirements were the same. I should have a prerequisite degree. But Dean Myers, out of his kindness, gave me a chance. He gave me a challenge. He said, 1111 tell you what weill do. You have 70 hours of straight A work. College work. If you can complete the required courses in law with no lower than a B average, I will recommend you for an LL.B. degree. So that was a challenge, and it gave me a chance to get a law degree. So over a period of ten years, going to law school at night, I managed to finish the required courses with a, I suppose, a high B average or a low A. Anyhow, I was on the honor roll. Graduated cum 1 aude, and President John F. Kennedy presented to me my 1 aw degree in I was 45 years old at that time. He was the commencement speaker and del ivered the famous foreign relations -8-

10 address on that occasion. BAKER: During that ten-year period, to focus on your House years, it would seem that you were following two, separate intensive courses of study: the law curriculum and the congressional curriculum. BYRD: That is true. One reason I could not finish my required work in the study of law within a shorter period was the fact that I had to run for reelection every two years when I was in the House. And so during each election year, I would take no courses; so I concentrated very heavily on my district, on keeping my political fences mended, and on serving my constituents--and serving them well. And then when I was elected to the Senate, of course, with a six-year term, I was able to concentrate my classes and finish up my law school work. BAKER: In the House of Representatives 11m interested in the resources you had ava il abl e to you to do your job. What was the nature of your office staff in the House? BYRD: I think in the House when I began in January, 1953, I had five members of my staff. The reason that I recall that it - 9-

11 was five members was because I had four counties in my congressional district. And so I thought it would be politically astute to have a member of my staff from each of the four counties. So I had four counties and five staff people. It wasn't a large staff. And in those days we didn't have all of the electronic equipment that we now have. I operated the mimeograph machine, the robotyper, the typewriters, and did everything in the office along with my staff. The mail was not as heavy in those days, and the press activity was not as intense as it has become. So I didn't have a lot to work with. We worked long hours We had the congressional library, of course, to help us with research and background for speeches. And I would call on the National Coal Association to help me with research in connection with speeches concerning coal--coal production, coal marketing, coal research, and so on. BAKER: Could you turn to the Democratic Party in the House for assistance to support your objectives? BYRD: As I recall there wasn't all that much assistance to be gotten. I was one of the new members of the House. As I recall I was probably about--not the youngest-- but, it seems to -10-

12 me, I must have been about the 17th youngest in age when I went to the House. And in the course of six years I didn't build up a lot of seniority. I never came to know a wide swath of members. I wasn't interested in the House organization, the leadership, or anything of that kind. I was interested in working my district, and serving the people of my district, and continuing to remain in office from that district. When the opportunity came to run for the Senate, I took advantage of the opportunity. It was a chancey one. The incumbent senator was running for reelection, and incumbents were hard to defeat then as they are today. But mainly my work and interests in the House revolved around my own four counties in my district. One of my counties was Kanawha County, the county in whi ch the state ca pita 1 is located. So I had a big district from the standpoint of population, mainly located in the coal-producing area in southern western West Virginia. That was my main and total interest when I was in the House of Representatives. I was there three terms. BAKER: Transferring our attention over to the Senate, your decision to run for the Senate--even though you suggested one reason is you wouldn't have to run for reelection every two years, what were some of the other factors you had in mind when you made -11-

13 that decision? BYRD: I would be in a position, then, to serve the whole state of West Virginia. I looked upon it as a step upward, and the ambition of almost every person is to move upward in whatever 1; ne of work he is engaged or whatever career he or she has chosen. So I saw it as a broader field, more interesting forum, and looked upon memberhsip in a smaller body as being advantageous to serving the people of West Virginia. I knew a senator could do more as one person for his state or his people than a member of the House caul d do in such a 1 arge forum. And I had become a successful politician by that time. I was a good vote catcher; therefore, I desired to come to the Senate. To me, that was the pinnacle of a successful pol itical career--to be a United States Senator. BAKER: Shifting, then, your focus from the district to the state and planning your campaign, you must have realized it was going to be more expensive to run a statewide race. BYRD: Well, in those days we didn't have much money. I didn't have much. I didn't have much money when I broke into -12-

14 state politics. I can remember in the House of Delegates from Roy County in the election of 1946, mainly by the use of my violin, taking it around to various gatherings--church meetings, fraternal organizations, family reunions, boy scout meetings, PTA meetings, and so on. So I mainly had broken into politics on the strength of my drive, and ambition, and willingness to work hard and using my violin as an attention-getter. And it was the same when I went on to become a state senator. I branched from being a delegate, representing one county, to being a West Virginia state senator; and, thus, representing two counties, and representing four counties in the U. S. House of Representatives. I then was serving one-sixth of the state's population. So, this was at a time before high-priced consultants and television became the prime medium in politics. Senator Randol ph, who had been a member of the House of Representatives some years before I became a House member and who had lost an election and become an executive with one of the airlines, decided to run for the Senate at the same time I decided to run. And there were two Senate opportunities. I ran against Senator Chapman Rivercomb, the incumbent, for a six-year term; and Senator Randolph ran against a Mr. Hoblitzell who had been appointed to fill the unexpired term of Senator Matthew Neely who died. And so Senator Randolph ran for the two-year term. -13-

15 The two of us ran on a combined war chest of something like $50,000 or less. BAKER: Combined? BYRD: Combined. We teamed up since we were not running against each other, and We were running for two separate seats. We ran as a team. In those days campaigning consisted mainly of travel ing around the state, speaking in court houses--at court house rallies, speaking in union halls and before rallies of coal miners, and speaking at chamber of commerce meetings and meetings of civic organizations, and going to things of that nature. Senator Randolph had acquired a pretty well-known statewide name, and I had acquired a well-known name in the southern part of West Virginia where my district was. And, of course, my name had gotten round the rest of the state as well. I had taken on a few speaking engagements outside my district. So, from the standpoint of dollars and cents, we didn't spend much in those days on the el ection. I took my fi ddl e around to the court houses. It again gave me the opening. I didn't campaign on the fact I played the violin, but I used that to attract their attention after which I'd make my speech; and they'd remember me by virtue of my playing the violin. It was a way of projecting a personality that struck up a kindred spirit in my -14-

16 listeners in the audience. I ran the head of the ticket, I believe, that year. My margin over the Senate incumbent was in the neighborhood of 117,000 to 20,OOO--somewhere along in there, I believe. So I came to the Senate. I was sworn in my Vice President Nixon in that very large class of BAKER: In running for that election, did you feel you had some hel p from outside--particularly from the Democratic Party nationally? BYRD: I didn't have much help. The Democratic Party nationally did put a little money into the campaigns of Senator Randolph and myself. I recall that former Senator Clements, Earl Clements--I believe he was the Chairman of the Senatorial Campaign Committee--was able to allot some money for my campaign and for Senator Randolph. Now, we bought billboards. Billboards were a pretty familiar way of campaigning in those days. We bought billboards around the state; and our campaign motto, I believe, was--let's see--8yrd and Randolph will build West Virginia in the United States Senate. -15-

17 We did a little radio. We did some radio ads. We did some newspaper ads. Very little television. I don't think I had any television spots, as we call them. I had one, or two, or three television buys in which I would appear and talk about my campaign. We didn't have the spots and the polish, the sophisticated ads that we see nowadays. I just went before the people on television and talked. I remember that the first television set that I ever owned was after I became a member of the House of Representatives here. I went home one evening, and my wife and our two daughters and I were sitting in the living room after we'd eaten dinner. We called it supper back in the area where I grew up. And my wife said, Well, what do you see about the room here that's new. And I looked around, and there was a television set. It was black and white. Black and white set. My first television set. BAKER: At the time of your election in 1958, the Washington Post described you as a hard-working young man who laid out a political timetable for himself and has moved up the ladder on schedule. And nearly every article that has appeared has described your career since then has used that same theme. Very careful deliberate planning--step by step--which leads me to ask you about how you confronted the United States Senate in November -16-

18 of 1958, particularly from the time of your election in November until January 6, 1959, when Richard Nixon administered the oath of offi ce to you. BYRD: First of all, I didn't have any timetable, rea 11 y. These myths get sta rted, and they bu i 1 d around one; and they never quite shake themselves off. In politics, one just has to sei ze the opportunity when it presents itself or it may pass him by. It was that way when I ran for the House of Representatives. The opportunity came to me when the congressman from the Sixth District, Dr. E. H. Hedrick, decided he would be a candidate for governor; so he did not run for reelection. And I was attending Marshall College, now Marshall University, in Huntington at the time and had just enrolled in the spring semester. And the opportunity came. Well, I seized it. Obviously, I couldn't have had that on a timetable because it was somewhat unforeseen. But I seized the opportunity. I knew that if I didn't run at that point I might not have an opportunity again--or certainly for a long time--to run for the House of Representatives. At the time I was elected to the United States Senate, I was a member of the House. And, as I recall, I had a kidney stone. And during the -17-

19 election I had a kidney stone attack. So I spent part of the time between the election and the swearing-in at the hospita1--at Montgomery in Fayette County, West Virginia. Interestingly, I should mention that the very first day that I wal ked into my office as a member of the House of Representatives, the House wasn't in session, but I had an office assigned to me. the very day I went to the office I had a kidney stone attack and had to be taken to the hospital over in Bethesda. The very first day. So, between the time of my election to the Senate and the swearing-in, rather than having the little episode concerning the kidney stone, I was making arrangements to move from the House offi ce buil di ng over to the Senate; and, probably, I'm sure that I was back in the state some, getting around and shaking hands, and thanking people in the various new counties that I was going to represent. I was going to have fifty-one new counties--additiona1 counties--over and above the four that I had represented when I was in the House. So I spent a good bit of that time getti ng around over the state. That's about the way it was. BAKER: You found tha t you ha ve all these new responsibilities, much larger number of constituents. Did you also find that you had additional resources to reach that larger constituency? -18-

20 BYRD: I had a larger office staff. I had more space. BAKER: Tell me about how you went about movi ng into your office space in what is now called the Russell Building. BYRD: Yes, I moved into the Russell Building. It was called the Old Senate Office Building. Of course, I had a House staff that was familiar with casework; so that House staff moved to the Senate with me. It was a matter of adding to the staff, and I had a very competent administrative assistant. And she went about adding to the staff, and bringing to the office additional people, and setting up shop in a larger space. BAKER: It must have been a rather chaotic time. There was a huge turnover in the Senate as a result of the election in the Senate in thirteen new democrats. BYRD: wi der hori zons. stalwarts. I Yes, yes. It was a like a new door opening to When I came to the Senate there were great 01 d guess Senator Joe Clark would call them "establ i shment" peop1 e. Senator Russell, Senator Stenn is, Harry Flood Byrd, Sr. of Virginia, Lister Hill, Jim Eastland, Sam Ervin, Russell Long, Senator O'Mahoney, Lyndon Johnson. Those were men -19-

21 who had been here a long time, and they loved the Senate. BAKER: When you came to the Senate were you acquainted with any of those men personally at the time you arrived here? BYRD: No. As a member of the House, I di d not get acquainted with members of the Senate. I had met Lyndon Johnson on one occasion after I had been elected to the Senate and while I was still in the House following the election. I came over and met Senator Lyndon Johnson. I can remember he was in the middle aisle of the Senate Chamber when I met him. And he had his coat pockets bulging with memoranda and pieces of paper. His trousers looked like they were too long for him, as I recall. But I didnlt know the other senators. BAKER: Did he call you over to have an appointment, or did you on your initiative go over to look him up? BYRD: I probably went on my own initiative to see Lyndon Johnson. I donlt recall who introduced me to him. It may have been Bobby Baker. 11m not sure. -20-

22 BAKER: Well, there was some business to be transacted between you and the Majority leader at that time. The most important, I suppose, being committee assignments. BYRD: Yes. Senator Randolph and I visited with lyndon Johnson in the Majority leader's office. Senator Randolph requested, as I recall, the Committee on labor and Public Welfare and the Committee on Public Works. I requested Appropriations. That was the only committee I really, really wanted. I was advised it would be very difficult to get on that committee. BAKER: What led you to conclude that was the committee you wanted? BYRD: Because I felt I could do more for West Virginia. I felt that on that committee I could do much for West Virginia, and that's what I wanted to do. I wanted to get things for West Virginia. I was told it would be hard to get on that committee. I was advised to go see the chairman who at that time was the Senator from Arizona, Senator Hayden. And, also, I was told I -21-

23 should see Senator Russell, the senior senator from Georgia. I believe he was the senior senator at that time. I don't remember. I don't believe Senator George was in the Senate when I came. BAKER: He left. BYRD: So, also, of course, I knew I had to see Senator Johnson, the Majority Leader. I can recall that Senator Randolph and I went into Senator Johnson's office, and we sat down; and he tal ked with us for a few minutes. Asked us about our committee assignments. Why we wanted them and so on. And, for some reason or other, he worked it out so that both of us could get what we asked for. Senator Randolph got the two committee assignments he wanted, and I got on Appropriations. That was thirty-one years ago. And I used that committee assignment to good advantage for West Virginia all through those years. BAKER: Did you feel at the time that you were paying any price to get on that particular committee? -22-

24 BYRD: I didn't feel that I was paying any price, but I felt grateful to Majority Leader Johnson for his putting me on that. I suppose itls fair to say that he in considerable measure put members on committees. Of course, he did it with the help of the establishment of senators. I'm sure he talked these things over with Senator Russell, Senator Hayden--Hayden being the chairman of the committee. And, if they had a meeting of the minds, that pretty much decided it. The Steering Committee at that time was smaller than the Steering Committee is today, I think. And Johnson and the Southern senators dominated it. BAKER: Oi d you know who the members of the Steeri ng Committee were? BYRD: I probably did at the time. It may have been that I contacted several of them. So I was grateful to Majority Leader Johnson for being assigned to that committee. It wasn't a pri ce. It was a matter of gratitude, and I became a strong supporter of Lyndon Johnson because he had arranged for me to get the committee assignment that I wanted. -23-

25 BAKER: Tell me ali ttl e bit about the nature of your meetings with him. I get the impression that one didn't go in and just sit down and have an extended conversation with Lyndon Johnson. BYRD: Well, I think that's probably true of most majority leaders. I don't think one just went in and had an extended conversation with Mike Mansfield. When I became majority leader, I made myself far more available to my colleagues than either Johnson or Mansfield did as far as I could tell, although Mr. Mansfield's office was one in which any senator could walk and certainly see Senator Mansfield. But I'm not so sure that anyone was as openly available to senators as I was. If I was in the midst of a sandwich, I put the sandwich aside. So the senator didn't have to make an appointment with me in advance, he just walked in the door. My staff showed him in. When I was a new member, and I was very well aware of the importance of seniority here, I didn't attempt to push myself in on anyone. I pretty much was willing to wait my turn. -24-

26 BAKER: a member of the Senate? Had you ever met Richard Russell before you became BYRD: I don It reca 11 ever ha vi ng met Sena tor Russell before I became a member of the Senate. BAKER: Can you tell me a little bit about how you approached him--the nature of your early relations with him? BYRD: I never called Senator Russell "Richard," or I never used a nickname. Other senators called him "Dick. 1I Dick Russell. I never could bring myself to do that. And I served with him from January, 1959 until he died on January 21, 1971; and I never called him anything other than Senator Russell in all that period. He was the one senator that I never addressed by his first name or nickname. BAKER: Why was that? BYRD: That was because I respected him so much. I just -25-

27 felt that he was kind of the father of the Senate, and I didn't feel that I had any right to call him by his first name. I didn't feel that I should presume to do that. BAKER: inspired your respect? What were some of the characteristics of his that BYRD: He was very cool, clear-headed senator. Patrician type. And he was highly respected for his knowledge of the rules and precedents--for his good judgment. He didn't go out of his way to develop a friendship or acquaintance. But he was easy to talk with. He seemed to be someone that I could ask for advice, but, at the same time, someone whose time I would not want to presume on. He had an excellent vocabulary. Very articulate, although not an orator. He was a learned man. And someone who exuded confidence--self-confidence--and assurance, selfassurance. He was a Christian gentleman. He didn't seem to go out of his way to give advice; but if one sought his advice, he showed interest and would give it. BAKER: As part of your education as a United States Senator, he clearly was an important teacher. You're suggesting, -26-

28 I think, that he had a certain major role as a teacher. He was there and ready for you. What kinds of things would you look to him for, for instruction or for guidance in? BYRD: I woul d inqui re of him about the customs of the Senate Or about the rules. Or get his judgment on an issue. Get him to express himself on an issue as a way of informing myself in coming to a conclusion in my own mind on an issue. That was about it. BAKER: I'd 1 i ke to focus a few mi nutes on the Appropriations Committee and, particularly, on Chairman Hayden. You got what you sought--a seat on the committee. How did you go about learning how to operate within the confines of that committee under the direction of Chairman Hayden? BYRD: Well, I had assignments to certain subcommittees. And wi thi n those subcommi ttees I waul d work with the agenci es. For example, on the Subcommittee on the Interior, I would look into the Forest Service. Its budget. Get acquainted with the chief and other people in the Forest Service. In West Virginia we have a very large forest--the Monongalia National Forest. And we -27-

29 have small portions of two other forests. And so I thought in terms of having forester labs, having some forester laboratories built in West Virginia as a way of developing our forest products' potential. I'd talk with the Forest Service people--get them to go with me to West Virginia and travel around a bit and determine whether or not they could justify a forest laboratory in West Virginia. And in this way I was able to get a forest laboratory in Mercer County. Early on after becoming a senator. And forestry sciences laboratory at Morgantown where the university is located. I would talk with the people in the Fish and Wildlife Service and in the Department of Interior in regard to coal and coal research. I began to put places on the map in West Virginia. Put projects on the map in West Virginia. Forestry labs, fruit and berry labs, coal research laboratories. I worked with the Army engineers providing flood control measures for West Virginia which was prone to be victimized by floods. Get large reservoirs built. Get locks and dams on the Ohio River. Improve our transportation potential there; and in that way, build up the infrastructure of West Virginia. I was successful in that Appropriations Committee in doing that. Now I was also successful being put on the Banking Committee at first along with Appropriations. I didn't particularly want to be on Banking, but I took it as a second committee and later - 28-

30 shifted to the Armed Servi ces Comm; ttee. When Lyndon Johnson became vice president, I took his seat on the Armed Services Committee; and again, there was Senator Russell who was Chairman of the Armed Services Committee at that time. Again, it was through Senator Russell's influence, I think, that I was able to get the Armed Services Committee. And, of course, Johnson had some say in that, too, since he just went off that and became Vice President. 11m sure he put in a good word for me as well. So I took his seat on the Armed Services Committee. And there I was able to get some things for West Virginia: new armories and reserve facilities. Also the radio receiving station at Sugar Grove in Pendleton County, which was a naval facility. So it's been through those committee assignments that I've been able to do things for West Virginia. BAKER: Looking at the Appropriations Committee for a minute, what kind of staff support did you get as a senator on that committee? You were dealing with some very complex issues. BYRD: Well, they had good, experienced staff on the Appropriations Committee. and going of senators. The staff doesn't shift with the coming Staff stays, becomes very expert in the

31 agencies that are served by the particular subcommittee And the staff was always nice to me--cooperative and helpful. Tom Scott was, I think, the director of the staff when I first came to the Senate. And other subcommittee staff on all the subcommittees on which I served were accommodating. Helpful. So they taught me the ways of going after projects for West Virginia. BAKER: Did you have a sense of the staff that they would be equa 11 y hel pful to mi nority members, or was there a m; nority staff at that time? BYRD: There were some minority staff; but for the most part, staffs weren't partisan. They were professionals, and they served both democrats and republicans alike. Of course, each party had its own immediate staff. But they were and are real professionals BAKER: You were also ass i gned to the Rul es Committee in BYRD: Yes. We were given two major committees and one -30-

32 minor committee. I think they were referred to in that fashion. So I went on the Rules Committee. I chose it as one I'd like to be on. I may have had some advice from Senator Russell in that regard at that point. BAKER: Committee. In the House you'd been on the House Administration BYRD: Yes, the first two years I was on House Administration which didn't give me anything for my district. Then when I went on Foreign Affairs, that didn't give me anything for my district. But it was a major committee. BAKER: But there seems to be a suggestion of a sense of curiosity about the institution from the perspective of the House Administration Committee and then over in the Senate side the Rules and Administration Committee. Did you feel that in 1959 when you were starting out here? the BYRD: House. Well, that was not the case when I started out in I was just given that House Administration -31-

33 Committee. I didn't ask for it. In the Senate, as I say, I probably got some suggestions from Senator Russell about going on the Rules Committee here. Otherwise, I probably would not have shown much interest in that either. My interests in the Senate when I came here were just as they were in the House in promoting the interests of my state. And that's why I wanted on Appropriations; why I was glad to get on Armed Services. So Rules Committee would not have been one that I would necessarily have asked for as a self-initiated action. BAKER: break today Well, this might be a good point for us to take a Tomorrow we can turn to the party mechanism. BYRD: Very well. -32-

34 Senator Robert C. Byrd Interview 12 December 15, 1989

35 BAKER: This is the second series of interviews on December 15. Senator, lid like to go back for a minute, if I could, to the 1958 election. I have read that, when you were considering running for the Senate, John L. Lewis of the United Mine Workers had his own favorite candidate for the position; and I just wondered if you could tell me a little bit about that. BYRD: Very well. I was a representative of the old Sixth Congressional District for six years, extending from 1953 to 1958 inclusive of both years. In 1957 I began to explore the possibilities of running for the United States Senate because Chapman Revercomb, the incumbent of the post, would have to run again if he chose to. So, in 1957 in the Fall after Congress had adjourned, or after the House had adjourned at least. In some of those years I think the House adjourned, but the Senate stayed in session quite -2-

36 some time because of civil rights legislation or some such. My memory isnlt exact on it. Anyhow, I was over in Wheel ing. I was scouting around in other congressional districts to measure my strength in those districts--or at least measure the interest in my possibly becoming a candidate for the United States Senate. I was in Wheeling, which ;s in the northern panhandle of the state, one evening; and I got a call from a man by the name of Robert Howe. He was the United Mine Workers liaison with the House of Representatives. He called me from Washington and reached me in Wheel ing. I was put up at a hotel there. And he asked when I woul d be back in Washi ngton. I tol d him it woul d be quite some several weeks. I didnlt know just when. He said, well he would like to talk with me because he had a message to deliver to me from lithe Boss,1I meaning Mr. John L. Lewis. And I said well I wonlt be back in Washington for awhile. I will be over in Romney, which is in the eastern part of the state, one evening either that week or the following week during which I would be speaking to a civic club in Romney. Mr. Howe indicated that he would be willing to drive over to Romney. It would be a pleasant drive. Itls about a 110 or 115 miles from Washington, and he would put up at the hotel there in Romney; and he would bring his wife along so she could do some sightseeing. And he and I would then meet there in the hotel duri ng the afternoon of the date on whi ch I was to -3-

37 address the civic group. On that particular day I met with Mr. Howe in Romney. He got right down to business. He said that The Boss, Mr. Lewis, wanted him to apprise me of the fact that Mr. Lewis was going to support William C. Marland for United States Senate in the campaign of 1958 and that he--mr. Lewis--didn't want me to run for the Senate. He wanted me to run for the House again. According to Mr. Howe, Mr. Lewis felt that I had a good labor record; and they felt they would be happy to support me for reelection to the Sixth District congressman's office. Mr. Howe said that Mr. Lewis was so supportive of Mr. Marland that he--mr. Lewis--would come into West Virginia and campaign for Mr. Marland if necessary. They felt that they owed him a great deal, so they were committed to support him in the Senate race against Mr. Revercomb. I said, Well, you paid your debt to Mr. Marland. That's the reason Mr. Revercomb is a senator now. I'm not sure I'm recollecting this right. They supported Mr. Marland against Mr. Revercomb, I believe it was, in the race in 1956 to fill the remaining two years of the term that had been, I believe, that Senator Kilgore died. And Mr. Marland had lost. I said you supported him, and he lost. Now we have Mr. Revercomb in there. I should have my chance at it. -4-

38 Well, he was sorry; but that was the message from the Boss. Mr. Lewis would come down into West Virginia and campaign for Mr. Marland if need be. I said, Well, I will be back in touch with you. So that night after I had spoken to the civic organization, I made my way from Romney southward into Beckley. And on the way a few miles south of Romney I entered Grant County, Petersburg, the county seat. There I stopped my car and went to a telephone booth. The snow was up around my ankles, I remember. It was cold in that telephone booth. I called my wife back in Arlington. We lived in Arlington while I was in the House. She answered the phone. I said, well, Erma, I've made my decision. She said, What decision? I said to run for the United States Senate. Well how did you come to make it? I said, Mr. John L. Lewis helped me to make it. He has sent a message to me not to run for the United States Senate stating that he will be supporting Bill Marland, former governor; and, of course. she knew who Bill Marland was. He will come down into the state and campaign for Bill Marland, so I am going to run. I then went back to my car, drove into Beckley. I got into Beckley, I suppose it may have been one or two o'clock in the morning. The next morning I was up early calling some of the big politicos in southern West Virginia- county chairmen and so on. I called Judge Robert D. Bailey in Pineville, Wyoming County. Told him I was running for the -5-

39 Senate. I had been a member of the state senate and represented Wyoming County in that state senatorial district so I knew Judge Bailey well. And he was well known allover the state. He was a well known Democrat. He had run for governor. He was well 1 i ked. I then called Sidney Christie in McDowell County. At that time, McDowell County had one of the largest populations of any of the counties. It was a coal-mining population. Great coal mining county. And the Christie brothers pretty much were the political kingpins in that county. So I called Sidney who was the most active of the Christie brothers. Told him I was a candidate for the United States Senate. I then called some others, and the big consensus was, Well go to it. We're with you. Then I had a press conference and announced I was running for the United States Senate against Chapman Revercomb, that former governor Marland would be a candidate against me, and that John L. Lewis, chief of the United Mine Workers, would support Mr. Marland and would come into the state and campaign for him. Well, as it later developed, Senator Neely died; and the other Senate seat opened up in And John Hobbits was appointed by the governor of West Virginia to fill that unexpired term which was just several months. With the opening of this other Senate seat, Mr. Marland chose not to file against me but to - 6-

40 file in that race. And former congressman Jennings Randolph, who had also been making some inquires around, jumped into that race. And the former president of the West Virginia Senate, McVickers, I believe, filed in that race. Anyhow, there were several. I had one person from Fairmont, the northern part of the state, to run against me. Anyhow, the coal miners had, in the meantime before the second seat opened, been quite aroused by the news that John L. Lewis would oppose me for the Senate. They were sending telegrams to Washington here. When that second door opened for a Senate seat and Mr. Marland decided to enter that race, that relieved the situation between Mr. Lewi sand mysel f. I then was contacted by Bob Howe again and Jim Mark, who was the UMWA liaison officer, I believe, with the Senate here. I knew him prior to that. So those two gentlemen suggested I go down and see Mr. Lewis and smooth this whole matter over because there was no confrontation now that was going to take place, and he was going to be supportive. It would be good for me if I went down and smoked the peace pipe. So I went down. On that occas i on I met with Mr. Lewi s, and Mr. Mark, and Mr. Howe. Nobody else in the room. And Mr. Lewis complimented me on saying that he was going to support me. But he said, Young man you announced when you were going to be a -7-

41 candidate for the United States Senate, you announced that Bill Marland was going--our meeting took place prior to the primary election. So all of us were still out there running Bill Marland, Jennings Randolph, and others were active in the Senate race; and I was still running in my own with a little-known candidate from the northern part of the state against me. Young man, you announced that you were goi ng to be a cand i da te for the United States Senate. You also announced that William C. Marland would be a candidate against you, and you took the liberty of announcing that I would support Mr. Marland and that I would come down in your state and that I would campaign for him. And I want you to know, young man, that I'm in the habit of issuing my own press releases; and I resented your presuming to make a public statement involving me. And his eyes twinkled, and they were very blue; and they seemed to bore right through one. I listened very respectfully. And when he'd finished, I said with great respect I'd always admired him. He was a great labor leader, and my foster father was a coal miner; and I had married a coa 1 mi ner I s daughter. I coul d remember when there was no uni on in the coal fields--how the men had to work from daylight to dark to eke out a very meager living, and how I'd seen the union come into being and how he, Mr. Lewis, and the union had done a lot to advance the welfare of the miners and to improve their conditions, and the wage scales, and so on. And I respected him as a great -8-

42 leader. But~ I said, 11m a politician; and when I decided to run--or considered running--mr. Howe here came over to West Virginia and informed me that you had a message for me that you would not support me if I ran for the Senate. You wanted me to run for the House again for whi ch you woul d support me, but that you were going to support Marland in the Senate race even to the extent of coming to West Virginia and campaigning for him. And I resented the message that you sent to me by Mr. Howe. And so I decided to run. I knew that that would elevate the visibility of my race. I was running to win. And running to win I had to play all the cards I had. And that was one of my trump cards announcing that Marland was going to run against me. Announcing that you would support him. Announcing that you would campaign for him in opposition to my candidacy. So I would have been foolish to have sat there and not publicized these developments. They gave the kind of visibility to my race that brought me a lot of support from people who~ otherwise, probably wouldn't have even known I was running. So I ran to win. He said~ well he was going to support me for the Senate; and he knew I would make a fine senator. That was the end of that meeting. On the way back up to my office on the House side~ Jim Mark - 9-

43 and Bob Howe said to me, I remember Jim Mark saying it in particular. I feel that you made a real impression on Mr. Lewis. And, he said, I think it's a very favorable impression because he likes somebody who has the courage to stand up. And, he said, you demonstrated that. You did it in a nice way. You weren't disrespectful at all. He said, I have a feeling that when I get back I'm going to hear some nice things said about you. That afternoon he called me on the phone. Mr. Mark called me and said, well it's just as I supposed. I came back, and you really made a hit with Mr. Lewis. He likes you. And that was a great thing you did coming down and meeting with him. Glad you all got everything smoothed out now. Well, Mr. Lewis kept his word. He supported me, and he supported Mr. Marland; but Jennings Randolph won the nomination in the other Senate race. Then Jennings Randol ph and I, then, were candidates together for the United States Senate. Mr. Lewi s became very much a supporter of mi ne and spoke favorably concerni ng my future. And my experi ence wi th him was somewhat similar to my experience with Mr. George Tippler who was the president of the United Mine Workers District Office 29 in Beckley. But that race didn't have anything to do with the Senate. -10-

44 BAKER: in that face-to-face? Is that the first time you'd ever met John L. Lewis BYRD: Yes, that was the first time I ever met him. BAKER: campa; gn? What was the nature of his support during the 1958 BYRD: There was no monetary support. They didn't, as I recall, supply any monetary contributions to the candidates they supported. It was just the support of the organization. They got the word out through their United Mine Workers Journal and messages that came down from Mr. Lewis to the various UMW district offices, and from there it filtered on out to the rank and file. BAKER: In the last session we asked you some questions about life in the Senate in 1959 and Learning to come to grips with the institution. And we spoke a bit about Lyndon Johnson as majority leader and his style. A lot has been written about him and how he controll ed the Senate. And peopl e ki nd of blissfully look back to the old days. You have said on a number of occasions that Lyndon Johnson could never get away with his style of leadership in the Senate of modern times, particularly the Senate of the late 1970s and -11-

45 1980s. lid like you to explain what you had in mind when you said that. BYRD: Times have changed. At the time Lyndon Johnson was majori ty 1 eader the bi g i ssue--one of the ma i n issues before the whole country, not just before the Senate--but before the Senate was the civil rights issue. And the Southerners were very united. Southern democrats represented the whole Confederate States of America and the border states in the United States Senate when I came to the Senate and when Lyndon Johnson was majority leader.. So you take states like Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Mississippi, Virginia, and some of the other southern states which today have at least one republ ican senator in each of those states. At that time, they were solid democratic. So there was a sol i d democrati c vote whi ch backed Johnson. Johnson was a southerner, and Senator Richard Russell of Georgia was Johnson I s mentor and the strength back of Johnson I s candidacy. As you see, there were 22 to 26 or more votes counting the old confederate states and then the border states, the democrats. And they pretty much stuck together on the civil rights issue. And they stuck with Johnson. The Westerners went wi th the Southerners in return for support for water resources projects and so on that the Westerners were interested in. -12-

46 There was a strong, solid, united block of votes that Lyndon Johnson had backing him as majority leader. These were senators, too, who had been here a long time--who had great seniority. And they were representati ve of what mi ght have been looked upon by some observers as the Establishment. Establishment senators. It was then that there were those who thought of an Inner Club and an Outer Club in the Senate 'cause these were the Establishment senators, and Johnson had their solid backing. He was able to get things done because he had that solid backing. He didn't have many young turks. When the 1958 class came in there was a group of young, younger senators from around the country who di dn' t necessari 1 y fit ri ght into thi s Establishment. So with the coming of Senator Proxmire, who was here a little ahead of the 158 class, and some of the erstwhile mavericks, for want of a better word--non-establishment senators, like Joe Clark of Pennsylvania. As these new senators came in, Lyndon Johnson was kind of on his way out. He went out in '60. In 1960 a new breed was coming in. And then with the passing of the old civil rights issue from center stage in 1964 and 1965 and the ushering in of a different type of senator and a different type of senatorial campaign in which big money, high-priced consultants, costly TV ads would play a major part, the whole scene began to shift away so that the old, senior senators of Johnson's day began to retire, die out, and -13-